Reflection on stewardship from First Church member Kim Darling

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth. Rates of suicide among youth have increased by 35% since 1999. More than 20% of all teens and 45% of LGBTQ+ teens considered suicide last year. Rates are higher for unhoused, Black, and Indigenous youth. Teens have experienced psychological distress over the past several years from the increasingly negative social climate in our country including increases in anti-LGBTQ+ efforts, gun violence especially in schools, and police violence targeting Black men as well as an economic environment that leads many youth to feel hopeless about the future.

What can be done to reverse this trend? Research has shown that steps like strengthening financial security, increasing access to housing, training teachers in LGBTQ+ inclusivity, providing social supports, and providing youth with the tools to support each other all improve mental health and decrease thoughts of suicide. Our church supports efforts like these through where we spend our money and time. We support organizations like the Drop-In Center, the Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, Tommy’s Pantry, and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, all of which work either directly or indirectly to support at-risk youth. In addition, we actively work to pass legislation and support programming at both the local and national level to increase economic stability and fight against the anti-LGBTQ+ and racist currents that are taking up so much space today. Both our staff as well as members of the congregation work in our broader community to provide information and training to parents, teachers, and other community caregivers. We also provide that support to members and friends of First Church.

I started attending church here in 1992. I come from a background that saw non-cisgender, non-heterosexual people and behavior as deviant and sinful. This church and the people in it helped me become an active ally. I come from a background steeped in White supremacy. This church and the people in it have helped me develop and improve my anti-racist skills. As a mother of three, I know that these changes in me have had a direct impact on my own children as well as their friends and peers. I have faith that they continue to ripple beyond to people unknown by me. I support this church with my pledge because this church changes lives and in the process, saves lives.

(statistics from American Psychological Association and the Trevor Project)